A downtown Farmingdale hookah lounge that last fall was narrowly denied the ability to seek a liquor license is changing tactics in a last-ditch effort to keep the business afloat.
The owners of Mystique Gardens this week asked village officials to amend their occupancy certificate to limit admission to patrons 21 and older. They hope this would pave the way to a liquor license.
The Conklin Street lounge is open to those of legal smoking age, 19 and older.
"Twenty-one and older, strict door policy," co-owner Maurice Eldeiry told the village board of what he envisions for the business. "If there's underage [drinking], we'd be 100 percent liable."
Mystique Gardens has operated in Farmingdale for 15 months without a citation, Eldeiry said. Some residents last fall complained that the business isn't family-friendly.
Village officials in August voted 3-2 against an amended permit that Eldeiry and his cousin and lounge co-owner Maged Eldeiry needed for a state liquor license. Officials as well as some residents believed it would be virtually impossible to regulate an environment with alcohol service and 19- and 20-year-olds.
The Eldeirys -- with Maurice conceding of an alcohol-free hookah lounge, "our business plan did not work" -- on Monday said limiting admission to legal drinking age would alleviate concerns raised in August.
Mayor Ralph Ekstrand all but guaranteed the Eldeirys that the village would approve their new business plan, but reserved decision until the application is reviewed by the Nassau County Planning Commission.
"I would be shocked if the board did not grant you your request," he said, cautioning, "it may not be unanimous."
Maurice Eldeiry on Monday produced a character witness in Errol Ross, of Farmingdale, their real estate broker.
"He's a very upstanding young man, forthright," Ross said. "I've been inside this place. It's very calm. No problems perceived."
After the meeting, Eldeiry said Mystique Gardens has diversified commerce in Farmingdale and attracted visitors Islandwide. But it needs a liquor license to survive, he said.
"If we are denied, we'd 100 percent go out of business."